Amsterdam











by Adam Wojtanek aka The Polish Hippy



On the Atlantic Ocean in 1969

The first Dutch city I visited was Rotterdam. It was just before my eighteenth birthday during the Vietnam War in 1969. Many young Americans such as I left the country for Mexico, Canada or Europe to avoid the draft. After leaving Chicago for Montreal, Canada I boarded a transatlantic Ocean liner and headed for Europe. Many may not know this today, but in those days young man had to register for the armed forces on their eighteenth birthday. Most of those from my generation went to Vietnam. So, I lost a few friends in that senseless war. So I wasn't eager to join them. But I wasn't ashamed of being American; just ashamed of my government.

So there I was, on board a ship headed for the Old Continent aka Europe. I didn't want to leave home but the situation drove me to it. Now looking back, I think it was the right choice for many other reasons. If one wants to find oneself then one should pack a backpack and head for the Old World, and that's what I've done and it transformed my life for ever.

So I was on the Atlantic for about two weeks headed for exile. That's when I realized how small we are on the face of our planet and how much we are at the will of Mother Nature. At one point towards the end of that journey, our ship went into a storm on the
North Sea. I'll never forget those winds and big waves that kept throwing our ship in all directions. After docking in Rotterdam and setting my foot on Dutch soil for the first time, I felt as if I returned to a long lost home. I still feel that way every time I cross the Dutch boarder, even though I'm not Dutch and I don't speak the language. But there was no problem in communicating with the natives because most Dutch people spoke English as a second language. I don't know what it is that I love about Holland? It's a paranormal type of experience. Perhaps I lived in Amsterdam in a past life or perhaps there may be some other reasons? But I didn't stay long in Holland on that first visit. However, I promised myself to return there in the future. I've been through other storms on ships to Copenhagen and Montreal, but I'll never forget that one on the North Sea before we docked in Rotterdam.. Read more about my 1960s hippie experiences here.











“You don't love Amsterdam... Amsterdam loves you.”
~ Jesus on Amsterdam
(uncyclopedia.wikia.com)


Here's some information I'd like to share about Amsterdam in the Netherlands*. It's been once said that the Netherlands is where the richest poor people in the world live and the poorest rich people in the world. That's probably because the Netherlands is a Socialist country where residents enjoy many more social benefits and freedoms then people in other countries, but all that has a price.

Amsterdam was built on the river
Amstel. Many dams were built on that river to hold back the waters. Hance the city was called Amsteldam and later Amsterdam. But there are also those that believe it's a Japanese mispronunciation of "Amsteldam" that the Portuguese went with because they needed the trade with Japan. Whatever the the truth may be, Amsterdam is inhabited by about 1,350,000 tourists, all kinds of bohemian type pilgrims from all corners of the world including aliens from Area 51 . The city also has been called the Venice of the North and became a sort of holy land or Disneyland for hippies, artists, bohemians and gays from all sides of the planet. Perhaps it's the magic of the canals, the houseboats, red lights or the rickety shack crooked canal houses that make them feel high in Amsterdam. Or perhaps it's the mixture of the peculiar sweet scent in the air and the high concentration of healing minerals from the sea that act like a narcotic on creative people? Perhaps it's the Heineken beer that gives then that high spirit? No one really knows. It could also be the coffeeshops, Smart Shops, Head Shops, bicycles, night clubs, gay scene, bathhouses, parades, house music, gigolos, prostitutes, Red Light District, museums, bars, rainbow flags, Amsterdam hotels, live shows, shops, parks etc. Heaven knows?

The spirit of Amsterdam coul;d be visualised as a fair young goddess or god, clad in an intricate fabric knitted of all the city attractions, and decorated with a brilliant diamond necklace that symbolizes the citiy's diamond industry and other precious things the city has to offer. Perhaps we could find an earlier image of that spirit portrayed somewhere in Rembrandt's best known works. But that's another story for another day.
Coffeeshops and other attractions are a very important part of the layed-back Amsterdam culture. Without them the city would loose a lot of its charm. But there are some folks that feel ashamed of what the city has come to represent, who would like to close some of those attractions down. Well, all we can say is that we're ashamed for them, and proud to say that we do love Amsterdam as it is and for what it is not.

Amsterdam is the Capitol of the Netherlands, but the seat of the government is in The Hague (Den Haag). The Hague is also hometown of two legendary 1960s Dutch Rock Bands:
-
Golden Earring - recorded the top USA hit single "Radar Love".
-
Shocking Blue (1967-74) - recorded "Venus", #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit single in February 1970.

There are more canales in Amsterdam then in
Venice and more bridges then in Paris. Bicycles are the primary form of transport throughout the Netherlands. Generally speaking, the Netherlands are like another world parallel to ours. It is what the rest of the world could be like if people would become less restrictive and more pragmatic minded. But that doesn't mean that everything is perfect. Amsterdam has many problems; though much progress has been made in resolving some of them. However, problems will not be discussed here, but one should be warned that roses have thorns and that not everything is as rosy as it seems anywhere in the world.

The Dutch have a great understanding of human nature; its weaknesses and need for happiness. Some believe that's because of the form of Christianity they've practiced. But there are at least three types of opinion groups on Amsterdam. The first are the liberals and
non-conformists that would like to see more places like it on the map of the world. The second are less tolerant folks and conformists that would like to limit some of those freedoms in the Netherlands. There also may be some among those that may even hope to see the Amsterdam to fall so it could serve as a bad example for others not to follow. Finally, the third and the least noticed are those that take what we call "freedoms" to be as normal as nude sunbathing in Germany, for example.

To simplify Europe a bit for those Americans who have never been to the Old Continent, and that's probably about 95% or more of the readers, we'll begin by explaining the difference between Eastern and Western Europe in a nutshell. So, imagine that most of Western Europe is a bit like most of Northern United States. And imagine
Eastern Europe to be like the Sun Belt States (Bible Belt) in the South accept for the climate, with Russia in the role of an oil rich and uncontrolled Lone Star Republic of Texas. Monaco could be compared to a gambling Disneyland like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. And Amsterdam is a lot like San Francisco or New Orleans in some ways. Amsterdam could also be compared to other places such as Manhattan or New Jersey. And on the map of the world, imagine the Netherlands as an over-populated and below sea-level Bangladesh of Europe. Well, there you have it in a nutshell. That's the magic caldron of the Old Continent aka Europe.

The Dutch have also incorporated many elements from their former colonies in Bali, Indonesia, Africa, India, the Far East or the Caribbean making it a truly cosmopolitan place as early as in the Middle Ages. Remember the Middle Ages? Remember the Dutch Masters that painted naked women? The books that were published in Amsterdam because they couldn't be published anywhere else due to the Vatican such as Copernicus' book (1632)? The world's
first true central bank was created in Amsterdam. Dutch cows revolutionized the milk industry, which we believe Amsterdam's main shopping street Kalverstraat takes it's name from. Well, that's the free and innovative spirit the Dutch have represented and spread throughout the world since the dark ages.

Though Holland
** has changed much through the ages, Amsterdam has managed to keep a lot of the charm that used to be found in Haight-Ashbury, Chicago's Old Town or New York's Greenwich Village in the 1960s but on a different scale. But don't be surprised not to find many hippies or peace signs in A'dam.

There where is a lot of freedom there is spiritual, intellectual and economic progress. An example of that have been the Netherlands and its Mother, the City of Amsterdam. Amsterdam probably has been the most congenial urban environment we've seen
*** . Therefore, we're proud to say that it's our "Paris", as it was to Balzac, Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, tsar of Russia Peter the Great who was inspired by Amsterdam to build Saint Petersburg in his homeland, and many others like them. Perhaps it's just a beautiful dream... But wasn't the world built on dreams? And weren't people like Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Wernher von Braun, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon or the many men and women that received a Nobel Peace Prize or an Academy Award (Oscar) some of the greatest dreamers? So, lets keep on dreaming of a better world.

Footnotes:
* The name means "low-lands" because much of the Netherlands is far below sea level.
** The name comes form the words "holt" and "land" i.e. forest-land.
*** So far, I have been only to England, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Rep., France and Canada.








All photos on this website by Adam Wojtanek


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The Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) on The
Dam Square
Dutch Royal House (Het Koninklijk Huis)



That's me at the Dam Square in Amsterdam.
The Dam Square was the 1960s hippie center of the world. 
It still is a popular meeting place in Amsterdam. In the background,
Grand Hotel Krasnopolsky established in 1866 by a Polish immigrant.
Click
here to see it on Google Maps.


Hippies used to gather, play music, sing, practice free love
and also crash for the night in their sleeping bags 
around this phallic shaped Monument Of The Unknown Soldier. 
It was also the place where the Provo freedom action group
used to hold its
PROVOcative rallies in the 1960s.














Music by Adam Wojtanek




















Some links may need updating.
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Guides & Info
I Amsterdam
Holland Travel Guide Online
Netherlands Tourism - Amsterdam
Artsy’s Rembrandt Van Rijn page
AViewOnCities - Amsterdam
WikiTravel - Amsterdam
Internet Guide To Amsterdam
Time Out Guide to Amsterdam
Smokers Guide to Amsterdam
Dutch White Pages
Dutch Yellow Pages
Public holidays in the Netherlands

Maps

Google Maps - Amsterdam
Metro/Bus Rout Planner
Departure = Van, Destination = Naar,
Town = Plaats, Street = Straat,
House Number = Huisnr, Date = Datum, Time = Tijd


Online Dictionaries

Google Translate
Dictionary.com - Translator

Miscellaneous Links
Overheid.nl (in English)
Dutch News (News in English)
DutchAmsterdam.nl
Amsterdam.nl
Panoramas Of Amsterdam
Amsterdam.info | Amsterdam Webcam
Amsterdam Connect
Kalverstraat Online
The Amsterdam Site
Amsterdam Webcams
Amsterdam Expat
Meet In Amsterdam
Expatica.com
All About Houseboats
Dutch American - Wikipedia
Music of the Netherlands - Wikipedia


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A flower stand on a street in A'dam

























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